Don't encourage young to use drug, plea

AN Ipswich cannabis user, currently before the courts for growing the plant in his spare bedroom, has warned of the damaging effects new legislation may bring.

AN Ipswich cannabis user, currently before the courts for growing the plant in his spare bedroom, has warned of the damaging effects new legislation may bring.

Ray Wales was speaking out after home secretary David Blunkett pledged to reclassify the drug from Class B to Class C, meaning the drug will effectively be decriminalised by next July.

It means the scheme tested in the London borough of Lambeth, where officers were told to tolerate cannabis useand the drug could be smoked openly, is set to go across the country later this year. Possession of the drug would no longer be an arrestable offence.

In most cases of cannabis possession police would issue a warning and seize the drugs. Sentences for those dealing Class C substances would however be increased from five years to 14.

But Mr Wales, of Vincent Close, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and last week pleaded not guilty to magistrates to cultivating the class B drug, warned of the move.

He said: "I wouldn't like youngsters to be encouraged to take the drug across the board. It has definite side-effects including hallucinations and paranoia."

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The 50-year-old, who walks with use of a stick, is in constant pain. As well as arthritis, Mr Wales has a damaged pancreas and lungs since breaking his neck in a car accident 22 years ago.

Mr Wales, who was arrested for growing 36 plants in his spare bedroom, believes marijuana should be used only for its medical properties.

He said: "It is the only thing that allows me to cope with my illness. I would prefer to take it than be pumped full of the morphine that doctors prescribed to me."

Mr Wales's solicitor is waiting for a reply from David Blunkett, after contacting him for advice on how the

reclassification would affect people using the drug for medical reasons.

Because Mr Wales was arrested for cultivating a Class B drug, the new classification will have no bearing on his case, due back before South East Suffolk Magistrates court on August 6.

Meanwhile John Ramirez, who polled 236 votes for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance at last November's Ipswich Parliamentary by-election, said: "Cannabis is a legally acceptable drug and should be regarded in the same way as tobacco and alcohol, but less harmful."

Police stressed the new law would not mean an easing up in their war on drugs. Chris Sadler, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, said: "It is still a criminal offence and not something we would want people to get involved in."

Maureen Griffiths, 58, from Bury St Edmunds, the mother of teenager Shaun who committed suicide 14 years ago, has blamed the drug for her son's depression. Shaun hanged himself on the eve of his 17th birthday.

His mother warned against reclassification and said: "I believe it is possible cannabis triggered his mental illness. What else could have made him change so much?"

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